Monday, April 15, 2013


“In the decade leading up to 2015, nearly 70% of Canada’s projected 1.7 million new jobs are expected to be in management positions or in occupations usually requiring post-secondary qualifications. Improving access to post-secondary is one way to increase the number of graduates able to respond to labour force demands in the face of anticipated skills shortages.” Excerpt from an April 1, 2009 report by “Canadian Council on Learning” entitled “Post-secondary education in Canada: Who is missing out?”
The Board of Directors of the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL) met for the last time on April 11, 2012. The Paul Martin Liberal government created the Canada Council on Learning in 2004 to “report regularly on Canada’s progress in learning outcomes, and publish and disseminate key findings on what works.” In 2010 the Stephen Harper Conservative government informed the council it was cutting its funding. The final report of the CCL was presented in 2011.
I read the report “Post-secondary education in Canada: Who is missing out?” which was published in 2009 by the CCL as I was searching for answers to how the government plans to address racism/White supremacy in post-secondary education. Alas! I did not find any answers there. There was information about the “constellation of barriers confronting low-income, first-generation and Aboriginal students.” There was also recognition that addressing those barriers “requires a coordinated effort by governments, educators, parents, members of the community and students themselves.” There is much in the report about financial barriers, academic barriers and the “unpreparedness” of racialized and first generation students who attend post-secondary institutions. However nowhere in that report was there an acknowledgement of the White supremacist culture in post-secondary institutions that alienate racialized students which leads to overwhelming “missing out.” Of course the federal government that established the CCL is no longer in power and the present government seems to have no interest in the subject.
My quest began after a conversation with a group of students in their final year of a four year program at one of Toronto’s universities. These bright articulate young women were somewhat distressed because of the White supremacist culture to which they have been subjected. They also spoke about the disrespect to which a racialized professor is subjected by White students. Their remarks reminded me of an incident where educators in training looked at a group of Africentric dolls and burst into laughter declaring that the dolls were “a bunch of voodoo dolls.” It is alarming to think that some of these young White people will be working in schools that African Canadian children attend and will be expected to educate our children when they have such contempt and disdain for African culture.
Meanwhile many of our young people are not in post-secondary institutions they are in other kinds of institutions where their presence provides jobs for many of those White youth who attended post-secondary institutions. This state of affairs is not accidental it is all deliberately planned. Even the teaching in post-secondary institutions is deliberately set up to ensure that the position of power that White skin people hold is perpetuated. That is the reason why there is never a serious effort to address White skin privilege even when it is very evident in a class room setting at post-secondary institutions. Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci addressed the issue of education to maintain the status quo (cultural hegemony) from the point of view of a White male Marxist in a European country so there is no race analysis but it is pertinent in the case of African Canadians being educated to normalise White supremacy. Cultural hegemony has been described as: “The domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of the society - the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores - so that their ruling-class Weltanschauung becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.” Gramsci wrote: "The individual consciousness of the overwhelming majority of children reflects social and cultural relations which are different from and antagonistic to those which are represented in the school curricula." In that case it was the ruling class in Italy educating the other classes of people living in Italy to accept the attitudes of the ruling class as normal and everything else as “other.” Similarly in Canada the ruling class being White skin people are in control of the education system and for anyone who is not White to survive in a post-secondary institution they must imbibe the idea of White ruling class culture as normal. To resist is to be ostracised or worse fail to obtain post-secondary credentials thus hampering the opportunity to get a well-paying job.
The experience of the young African Canadian women in the Toronto post-secondary education is not unique it is replicated on campuses across Canada. What these young women are experiencing can lead to what has been described by the experts as “Racial battle fatigue.” African American professor Dr. William A. Smith from the department of Education, Culture & Society and the Ethnic Studies Program at the University of Utah has done extensive work on the subject and is credited with coining the phrase “Racial battle fatigue.” In a presentation entitled “Understanding and Recognizing the Impact of Racial Microaggressions on Students of Color in Historically White Institutions” he wrote: “According to most university brochures, college represents a time of unbridled optimism, exciting challenges, and myriad opportunities. Few students would anticipate that their university experience might be marked by ongoing racialized incidents questioning their academic merit, cultural knowledge, and physical presence. Many Students of Color constantly face charges of being unqualified and viewed as being "out of place." Each of these experiences are racial microaggressions which compromises the campus climate, student satisfaction, personal health, and success of the targeted student or group. Over time, the mundane but extreme stress caused by these assaults can lead to mental, emotional, and physical strain which has come to be identified as Racial Battle Fatigue.” In an interview in February 2008 Smith defined “Racial micro-aggressions” this way: “Racial micro-aggressions are latent, or offensive remarks or actions that whites rarely see as racist yet are experienced by people of color as assaults.” Smith also has also been quoted on the subject of how racism affects those who are victimized: “The ferociousness of racism should be viewed like a racial neurotoxin that can traumatize, hurt, enrage, confuse, and in the end prevent optimal growth and functioning of individuals and communities of color.”
Although Smith is credited with coining the phrase “Racial Battle Fatigue” he has expanded on the work of an earlier generation. African American Psychiatrist Chester Middlebrook Pierce Emeritus Professor of Education and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School identified “Racial micro-aggressions” in 1974 as: “These [racial] assaults to Black dignity and Black hope are incessant and cumulative. Any single one may be gross. In fact, the major vehicle for racism in this country is offenses done to Blacks by Whites in this sort of gratuitous never-ending way. These offenses are microaggressions. Almost all Black - White racial interactions are characterized by White put-downs, done in automatic, pre-conscious, or unconscious fashion. These minidisasters accumulate. It is the sum total of multiple microaggressions by Whites to Blacks that has pervasive effect to the stability and peace of this world. In 2011 Smith wrote: “Pierce (1974), believes that racism is an infectious disease, a perceptual disease, as well as a lethal disease. Indeed, the consequence of a life-time of racism coupled with mal-adaptive, exhausted, or limited coping strategies results in a shortened lifespan or premature death for People of Color.” Smith co-authored “Assume the Position You Fit the Description” Psychosocial Experiences and Racial Battle Fatigue Among African American Male College Students” the results of a study that examined the experiences of African American male students enrolled at Harvard University; Michigan State University; University of California, Berkeley; University of Illinois; and the University of Michigan. The findings of the study were published in the December 2007 edition of American Behavioral Scientist magazine and found that: “Two themes emerged: (a) anti-Black male stereotyping and marginality (or Black misandry), which caused (b) extreme hypersurveillance and control. Respondents experienced racial microaggressions in three domains: (a) campus—academic, (b) campus—social, and (c) campus—public spaces. Black males are stereotyped and placed under increased surveillance by community and local policing tactics on and off campus. Across these domains, Black males were defined as being “out of place” and “fitting the description” of illegitimate nonmembers of the campus community. Students reported psychological stress responses symptomatic of racial battle fatigue (e.g., frustration, shock, anger, disappointment, resentment, anxiety, helplessness, hopelessness, and fear). There was unanimous agreement in the subjective reports that the college environment was more hostile toward African American males than other groups.”
I did not have this information when I spoke with the young women who were experiencing serious “racial microaggressions” in their classroom at one of Toronto’s prestigious universities. Maybe it has not reached that point for African Canadian women attending Canadian universities. After all we are constantly told that Canadian racism is different from the US brand of racism or even that there is no racism here!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Jomo Kenyatta has been sentenced to seven years hard labour for his part in the organisation of the rebel Mau Mau movement. The leader of the Kenya African Union, who was found guilty on all charges, was also given three years hard labour to run concurrently for being a member of the movement. Kenyatta told the court he and his colleagues were not guilty but that they stood for the rights of the African people and peace in Kenya. Kenyatta was also given several opportunities to denounce the illegal movement which he refused to do. Excerpt from British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) report March 8, 1953
Jomo Kenyatta, born Kamau wa Ngengi to parents Muigai and Wambui who were members of the Kikuyu ethnic group in central Kenya changed his name to Jomo Kenyatta as an adult. He became Kenya’s first Prime Minister when the country gained its political independence from Britain on December 12, 1963 but it was a long hard road getting there. Kenyatta’s political career could be said to have begun when he became a member of the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA.) The KCA was an organization founded in 1924 to present the concerns of the Kikuyu people to the representatives of the British government in Kenya who occupied African land.
Although at that time the British were in possession of the best farming land in the country they were not the first Europeans to occupy the land. The first Europeans entering Kenya in 1844 were German missionaries. These missionaries had more on their minds than converting Africans to Christianity. They made numerous exploratory journeys into the interior of the country where they carefully mapped and wrote about their findings. In 1860 they published detailed maps and cataloguing of the land in “Travels, Researches, and Missionary Labours During an Eighteen Years' Residence in Eastern Africa.” Not surprisingly, the missionary Johann Ludwig Krapf dedicated the book to “The Prince Consort Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emmanuel etc.,” the German husband of then reigning British monarch, Victoria (ancestor of today’s British royal family.) The book documenting the findings by the German missionaries probably widely read in Britain led to British adventurers descending on Kenya in droves.
White people displaced the indigenous African communities in the area and occupied the land. The well-established African communities which included, farmers, fishermen, hunters and ironworkers who supported the economy with agriculture, fishing, metal production and trade with other countries were destroyed. Mombasa (Kenya’s capital) was the major port city of Kenya in the Middle Ages from where ships left to trade with other countries. In the 16th century, Duarte Barbosa a Portuguese writer and trader visited several countries bordering the Indian Ocean and documented his findings in “The Book of Duarte Barbosa: An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and Their Inhabitants” which was published in 1518. Of his visit to Mombasa, Barbosa wrote, “This is a place of great traffic and has a good harbour in which there are always moored small craft of many kinds and also great ships, both of those which come from Sofala and those which go thither, and others which come from the great kingdom Cambaya and from Melinde and others which sail to the island of Zanzibar.” The history of Kenya however began long before the advent of Europeans to the area. In the 1981 published book “Kenya’s Past: An Introduction to Historical Method in Africa,” Thomas Spear writes “The history of eastern and central Kenya stretches more than two million years from the initial emergence of mankind itself to the present. The archaeological record of mankind in Kenya is the oldest in the world, stretching back some four to five million years to the earliest men and women and their immediate forebears living on the shores of Lake Turkana.”
Kenya’s history was re-written by White colonizers who swiftly followed the German missionaries and British adventurers. The lives of the Africans changed considerably after this large scale occupation of the land by White men and women. The Germans and British were jostling each other for space in East Africa. The covetous Europeans had occupied other areas of Africa and by 1884 felt that they needed to have some rules since they were tripping over each other in their greedy stampede to occupy African land. In 1884 at the request of Portugal, German chancellor Otto von Bismark organized a meeting (Berlin Conference) of the major White tribes of the world to negotiate and end the confusion over who would occupy which portion of Africa. Fourteen countries were represented when the conference opened in Berlin on November 15, 1884; Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway (unified from 1814-1905), Turkey and the United States of America. The feeding frenzy lasted three months until February 26, 1885. This group of White men meeting in Europe haggled over haphazardly drawn boundaries on the African continent, disregarding the centuries old established communities, cultures and order of the Africans.
Following that initial “Scramble for Africa” the British moved into Kenya, occupied the most fertile land and forced the Africans off the land. They passed laws that disenfranchised Africans, even forbidding them to own land in certain parts of the country. With the White interlopers occupying what they dubbed the "White Highlands" of Kenya, the Maasai and the Kikuyu were displaced and some were forced unto reserves. With the fertile land in Kenya reserved for White people and Africans forced to subsist on mostly infertile land, the White settlers became increasingly wealthy while the Africans lived in poverty. The large scale farming that enriched the White farmers needed cheap labour but the Africans refused to work on the farms. To ensure that Africans were a cheap source of labour for the White population of Kenya, the British government passed laws which forced the Africans to work for the White people who now occupied their land. The British army was on hand to ensure that White farmers and the stolen African land they occupied were protected. The passing and enforcing of the “Masters and Servants Act” (1906) ensured that a caste system of all White people as masters and all Africans as servants was firmly in place.
By the time the KCA was founded in 1924 almost 40 years and two generations of British occupation and brutally barbaric rule had cowed some Africans in Kenya into accepting life as colonized people. However regardless of dispossession and occupation of their land it is natural for human beings to resist oppression and the Africans in Kenya fought back in various ways. Organizing and protesting were some of those ways.
Not surprisingly the KCA was banned in 1940 during the time of the European tribal conflict (1939-45) because White people were occupied with killing each other in Europe. The battle which began in Europe soon engulfed the lives and the lands of racialized people whose land had been occupied by White people. So of course racialized people from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Central, North and South America were drafted into the conflict fighting on the side of whichever European tribe controlled their native land. The British would have found it difficult to keep track of the members of organizations like the KCA while they were battling with other Europeans in Europe so the organization was banned. When the European tribes ended their armed conflict on September 2, 1945 those Africans who had been fighting beside White men for years knew that White men were not superior beings just human beings some cowards under fire some brave but all could die from bullets. Those Africans returning from the war in Europe were not content to return to the status of second class citizens in their countries and the fight for independence from European colonization intensified. The Kenya African Union (KAU) was founded in 1944 to address the inequities of colonization. Kenyatta and other African leaders were influenced by the philosophies and teachings of the Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey an African Jamaican considered the father of the modern Pan-African movement. This philosophy led to Africans realizing that they needed to unite to gain their political independence from the European colonizers of their land and the struggle was on across the continent. A group of disenchanted and disenfranchised Africans supposedly a break-off group of KAU who waged armed struggle against the colonizers in Kenya became known as the Mau Mau. Every African in Kenya was suspected of being a member of the Mau Mau and the repression of Africans by the British was brutal (
Although Kenyatta denied being a member of the Mau Mau ( he was arrested, tried and found guilty on March 8, 1953. Even with Kenyatta’s incarceration the struggle for independence continued in spite of brutal British repression and on December 12, 1963 Kenyans gained their independence from British occupation.